The “sandwich generation” is defined as people who are juggling both the needs of their children and aging parents at the same time; and the results of a poll released last week by the BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) show that nine out of 10 British Columbians who form part of the sandwich generation report that they are experiencing challenges providing this care.
More than half the respondents to the poll said they have difficulty finding time to visit their aging parents due to work and/or busy schedules (64 per cent). Sixty per cent said it was a challenge to keep informed about the health status of a parent, while 56 per cent said it was difficult to afford the costs associated with caring.
Daniel Fontaine, CEO for BCCPA, said that the poll confirms what many people have been hearing about in their social circles for some time. “It’s so common. I’ve heard story after story of people having to take time off work to look after aging parents. That’s what prompted the survey.
“Taking care of elderly relatives is enough of a task. When you’re managing children as well it’s a real juggling act.”
A report from BMO found that at some point in their lives, almost half of all Canadians (46 per cent, or 13 million) aged 15 and older have provided some level of care to a family member or friend. The majority of those providing care are in the 45 to 64 age group.
From 2007 to 2012, the number of caregivers aged over 45 grew to 4.5 million; a 20 per cent increase. More than 75 per cent of these caregivers worked at a paid job or business. In 2012, an estimated 8.1 million people had provided care in that year alone, and 28 per cent (2.2 million) also had children under the age of 18.
Fontaine says that “There’s definitely a squeeze there, in terms of the seniors’ piece. There’s some support, but many people don’t have access to it or only have limited access. Home care can be a real relief, and so can adult day care, where seniors can socialize, go on outings, perhaps get therapy. But adult day care isn’t as common as it should be. I think there’s a really significant need to increase this around the province.”
Residential care is an option when aging parents can no longer stay at home, but Fontaine notes that waiting times to get into residential care have gone up in recent months. “We’re moving in the wrong direction.”
When it comes to the financial impact of juggling the needs of children who still need support and parents going into care, Fontaine says that the costs are many. “It goes beyond just paying for care. People have to take time off work or manage their hours, postpone retirement, drive around, and juggle two homes.”
When people have to take time off work—sometimes for an extended period—to look after aging relatives, there is a definite impact on the economy. “It’s a huge cost to the provincial and federal governments,” says Fontaine. “And there’s a huge cost to yourself, such as the stress of constantly being worried about mom and dad.”